Steven Matz is finally healthy and effective. He’s given the New York Mets no reason to remove him from the rotation.
Hold on, the Mets don’t see it that way.
According to Michael Wacha, the Mets promised him a spot in the rotation. So, who does that leave out? Well, it looks like it’ll be Matz.
Whenever pressed about the issue, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen always refuses to guarantee Matz a rotation spot.
This doesn’t mean that Matz will find himself in the bullpen coming opening day. However, it’s very likely that Matz will be fighting for his rotation spot come spring training.
That’s absolutely ridiculous.
Considering the competition for the fifth spot in the rotation is between Wacha and Matz, that’s where the numbers will be focused.
In 2019, Matz didn’t put together the best stats. His 4.21 ERA and 4.60 FIP were not impressive. That said, he made 30 starts and threw at least 150 innings for the second straight season. Wacha has never made 30 starts in back-to-back years, nor has he thrown 150+ innings in back-to-back seasons.
Just from a durability and eating innings standpoint, Matz has the edge. Considering Matz’s assorted record of injuries, that’s saying a lot about the health of Wacha.
Even Matz’s pitching numbers are better. Sure, his ERA and FIP were nothing to write home about, but they were still better than Wacha’s. Wacha posted a 4.76 ERA and 5.61 FIP in 2019.
Matz struck out 8.6 per nine innings, while Wacha only struck out 7.4 per nine. Matz walked 2.9 per nine, while Wacha walked 3.9 per nine.
There’s no stat Matz lost to Wacha. Matz even won the win-loss ration for those who care about that. Matz was 11-10 compared to Wacha’s 6-7.
All of this leads to the big number: Steven Matz was worth a paultry 1.6 fWAR last season. That ranks him as one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball with at least 150 innings. It was still better than Wacha’s -0.2 fWAR.
These two pitchers aren’t in the same stratosphere. Wacha was an All-Star once upon a time. Twenty-fifteen is a long time ago. What Wacha did five seasons ago should not have any effect on his spot.
It’s clear that Matz is the better player. Also, don’t forget that Matz is the only left-handed starting pitcher on the roster. The fact that the Mets are even debating this is illogical.
The St. Louis Cardinals knew what they had with Wacha last season. He’s no longer a starting pitcher; he’s a reliever. Wacha appeared out of the bullpen five times for the Cardinals last season. He didn’t succeed out the bullpen, but who could blame him. He had never come out of the bullpen before.
The New York Mets prepared for this. They put numerous incentives in Wacha’s contract for both starting and coming out of the bullpen.
Coming out of the bullpen, Wacha can fill an important role for the Mets… long man. The Mets currently don’t have anyone to lean on if a starting pitcher blows up early or to eat innings in extra innings. Wacha can fill that slot while providing depth in case of injury.
He would also offer the team an option to go to a six-man rotation to save innings and rest starters. All of that is valuable, especially since the Mets don’t have much minor league pitching depth.
Matz shouldn’t have to fight for a rotation spot when he’s clearly better than his competition. He’s earned his spot in this rotation as a back end guy. However, it’s easy to see why the Mets added a sixth starter.
They don’t trust Matz to pitch well or stay healthy for another full year. That’s understandable, and the need to hedge against that scenario is reasonable.
It’s not reasonable to put a starting rotation spot on the line in spring training between Matz and Wacha. The two aren’t comparable players right now. Having them compete makes little sense.
It seems the Mets only stand to lose in such a battle. There’s no upside to the move. So, please just give Steven Matz his spot and prepare Michael Wacha for his new life as a reliever.